Pre-Ordered Books of 2017

I’ve waited all year to read both of these.

I’ve waited all year to read both of these and they each arrived in the mail at the same time today. 

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater and What the Hell Did I Just Read? by David Wong

Reviews will be forthcoming. (Happy, spazzy dance!)

Book Review: Un Lun Dun

The story itself mockingly dodged predictable hero’s journey tropes, twisting around and jumping the curb every chance it got, as if to say, “you just thought you knew what was coming next.”

Capture
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Synopsis:

What is Un Lun Dun?

It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.

(Via Book Depository)

My Impressions:

Un Lun Dun, by New York Times bestselling author China Miéville, sets the typical hero’s journey on its side. Or perhaps inside out. For a city that’s London but very much not London, both familiar and strange, no destined chosen one will do. The very opposite, in fact. Just a girl with the stubborn courage to act, a girl who could be any of us, undestined, unchosen, but still capable of changing an entire world.

The tone of Un Lun Dun is a marvelous, whimsical cross between Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, two of my favorite stories, the likes of which I rarely find elsewhere. It shows the heart of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobethe main character perhaps being a tribute to C. S. Lewis’s wonderful character Lucy Pevensie. (If not, I know Lucy would get right along with Deeba Resham.) Throughout the course of Un Lun Dun, Miéville masterfully weaves in descriptions of his curious and complicated UnLondon without losing the momentum of the narrative. I won’t forget Wraithtown or the binjas, moil houses made from random objects, or the unbrellas (because I may be stuck thinking of my umbrella as an unbrella from now on). Also, carnivorous giraffes.

The story itself mockingly dodged predictable hero’s journey tropes, twisting around and jumping the curb every chance it got, as if to say, “you just thought you knew what was coming next.” The characters as a group become a powerful force, strong individually by the end, but mighty when brought together. The close of the story left me with the impression that not all problems are solved over the course of one book, but that the characters who took me across Unlondon and back can now face up to any challenge with the trust they have in each other.

Goodreads rating: 3.81 stars
My rating: 4/5 stars

Book Review: The Blood Mirror

A deft narration interwoven with a unique magic system, complex world building, cunning politics, interesting history, brilliant battles, intricate confrontations, and, best of all, puns.

Capture
The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

Synopsis:

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.
As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

The Blood Mirror is the fourth installment in The Lightbringer series, written by New York Times Bestselling author, Brent Weeks. I’ve been following his works since the simultaneous debut release of The Night Angel trilogy in 2008, which was my first real introduction into the genre of epic fantasy (and my gateway drug into the works of Peter V. Brett and Patrick Rothfuss). Since then, I’ve read The Night Angel trilogy more times than I have fingers on both hands. Yet Weeks continues to improve his storytelling game with every new book. His Night Angel trilogy is breathtaking, but his Lightbringer series is mind blowing.

I took so long to get around to reading this book partly because every time I went to pick it up at the library, it was checked out. No matter which branch I went to. The other part of the reason was because I knew that, once I started it, I wouldn’t be able to stop reading.

I was wrong. By that, I mean I was so wrong. Not only could I not stop reading it, The Blood Mirror consumed me, mind and soul. Every time I had to put it down for work or sleep or socializing, I wanted only to get back to it the moment I was free again. Even now, a solid day after devouring even the Author’s Note at the end (Weeks’s notes are always humorous), I’m still pining for more.

Here’s why:

The Lightbringer series features a plethora of characters from all across the spectrum, each one individual and interesting, complex and–in the case of Andross Guile for me–infuriatingly difficult to pin down. As lifelike as real people. The Blood Mirror focuses on a year fraught with peril for our four main characters: Kip, Teia, Karris, and Gavin. These four undergo tremendous character growth, each trapped in personal fights, stretched more and more between impossible decisions that will affect the war raging across the Seven Satrapies against the White King. It’s plain that what occurs in The Blood Mirror is the buildup to the explosive climax that will be the entirety of the final book.

Weeks has convinced me to fear for his characters.

Just when it seems Weeks has reached the maximum number of new cultures to introduce to the story and the peak of new applications for his magic system, he flies right past it and soars into the sky. I can never get enough of exploring this vast and richly colored world. The narrative itself is an examination and dissection of morality, madness, philosophy, theology, and love. More questions than answers, as well as a look out how each character must handle that uncertainty. A deft narration interwoven with a unique magic system, complex world building, cunning politics, interesting history, brilliant battles, intricate confrontations, and, best of all, puns. 

I don’t know how I’ll survive the next couple of years waiting for, likely, the last book. What torture. (Somewhere, Brent Weeks is cackling as he draws more life from his readers’ pain.)

Goodreads rating: 4.28 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars

Book Review: The Dark Days Club

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy.

The Dark Days Club
The Dark Days Club, by Alison Goodman

Synopsis:

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

I missed the release of The Dark Days Club back in 2016 and I’m sad that I only just now got to read it. But the upside is this: well before I finished this book, I found out the second in the trilogy, The Dark Days Pact, has already been released, a discovery I made because I didn’t want the one I had in my grubby little hands to end yet. Whew.

I may or may not have the sequel on order as I write this.

I cannot gush about The Dark Days Club enough. It’s deliciously dark, a thrilling urban fantasy. I don’t normally go in for Regency era narratives (yawn), but this one builds a rich world, lovingly detailed to strengthen the plot rather than detract from it. The book is large enough to use as a weapon in a fight, but the narrative wastes none of that space, moving right along from one bit of intrigue to the next. Alison Goodman pulled me in with an escalating cascade of questions and mysteries, one leading to another, growing grander in scale. Lady Helen Wrexhall is a sharp and clever main character, vibrant and lifelike. The other characters are distinctly themselves — from a horrid, overbearing uncle in charge of Helen’s life, down to the house footmen. At this point, I would love to meet the steadfast handmaid Jen Darby or the savage Lord William Carlston myself.

You know how we often get tales of heroines ripe for rebellion because, for some reason, they don’t ascribe to the norms of society in even the slightest? This is not one of those stories. Lady Helen Wrexhall lives a comfortable life in Regency London and when her life starts to shift toward the paranormal, she’s actually resistant to losing that carefree happiness. A refreshing change in characterization, in my opinion. The question of which life Helen will choose grows more and more exquisitely agonizing right up to the end. In Alison Goodman’s duology, Eon (which I highly recommend), the heroine does not choose the life or the lover I wanted her to pick (because, frankly, that choice would not have been heroic and would have led to her ultimate downfall). But this time around, Helen did not disappoint me in the slightest. Darkness rules the day in The Dark Days Club and I am well pleased.

Goodreads rating: 3.82 stars (why?!)
My rating: 5/5 stars (I would give it more if I could)

 

Book Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

The narrative style is quick and punchy enough to keep me turning pages, the wit snaps, and the characters are quite lifelike. I’d definitely hang out with this bunch of goofballs and have a good time with them.

Hold Me Closer
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride

Synopsis:

Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

(Via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

About the Author:

 

Lish McBride
Lish McBride, image from foreveryoungadult.com

 

Lish McBride lives and works in the Pacific Northwest as a Young Adult novelist.  She’s written two books about Sam LaCroix and she has another series she’s writing that starts with Firebug. While I haven’t read this one of hers yet, Leigh Bardugo — whose book Six of Crows was the subject of one of my more fangirly previous posts — publicly acclaimed it on Twitter, so Firebug is going straight onto my to-be-read listHold Me Closer, Necromancer is McBride’s first novel.

About the Book:

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is a character-driven urban fantasy set in Seattle, Washington and populated with a plethora of magical creatures, namely some witches, a mess of werewolves, and, of course, a couple of necromancers. It’s not the John Dies at the End story I expected based on the description. (Why would I think that? I don’t know. That’s just what I got out of it.) More like something in the vein of The Dresden Files books, but for young adults.

Though the book is designated as Young Adult, the main character, Sam LaCroix, is really a new adult, just post-graduation and stuck in a soul-sucking fast food job with little to no hope of a fulfilling career. His wry attitude makes such all-too-familiar agony bearable though, as he’s a guy capable of rolling with the punches with good humor. He has a handful of solid friends who have his back when his entire life takes a turn for the weird. I dig how the villain, Douglas Montgomery, is constantly in motion, not sitting on the sidelines or waiting for Sam to bring the fight to him. The narrative style is quick and punchy enough to keep me turning pages, the wit snaps, and the characters are quite lifelike. I’d definitely hang out with this bunch of goofballs and have a good time with them.

There were some parts that didn’t thrill me too much. For example, the really cool, kickass chick spends nearly all of her time in a cage magically designed to keep her half-breed self locked up, and the rest of her time flirting with Sam. She does get one awesome and well-deserved fight at the end, but that’s it. The romance isn’t mushy, as my local library promised (half the reason I picked this up, aside from the word necromancer on the cover), but, as is my main complaint with most YA romances, it comes off a bit forced. Also, while Sam’s narrative is in first person point of view, we get the point of view of several other characters, all of those in third person. Switching between first person and third person bugs me, but that may just be a personal peeve. I really liked getting into Sam’s head, but I found myself less interested in the other characters and looked forward to when we would get back to his part of the story.

McBride takes a decent amount of time with her wrap-up to tie up any loose ends, which I appreciate. Her execution struck me as kind of odd, however, until I found out there’s a second book in the series, for which she was setting up. I think she could have put most of the ending content at the beginning of the next book and it would have been a good deal neater. But it was just intriguing enough that I think I’ll be checking out the sequel, Necromancing the Stone.

Goodreads rating 3.95 stars
My rating 4/5 stars

 

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom

As a sequel to Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom hits the ground running, carrying the energy of the previous book by dropping its readers into the beginning of a new heist-in-progress, one that will determine the fate of our favorite bunch of gangsters.

Crooked Kingdom
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis:

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets — a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

(Via Barnes & Noble)

My Impressions:

About the Author:

#1 New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Young Adult fantasy. In addition to The Six of Crows Duology, she has written The Grisha Trilogy–set in the same world of the Grisha as Six of Crows–along with a couple of kids books. According to her website, she has three more books in the works.

About the Book:

Get ready, because the action hasn’t stopped.

As a sequel to Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom hits the ground running, carrying the energy of the previous book by dropping its readers into the beginning of a new heist-in-progress, one that will determine the fate of our favorite bunch of gangsters. Kaz Brekker’s team of dangerous criminals are now outlaws and the stakes are higher than ever; even though they should be on the run, they’re out to rescue their captured friend from the clutches of a back-stabbing merchant overlord. Reeling from the successes and failures of the previous adventure and, with no resources or allies, they can only rely on each other for survival.

Just when I thought this bunch of badass misfits couldn’t get any cooler, they do. As they each capitalize on the lessons they learned in the last book, we get to watch them become a force to be reckoned with in the face of more and more danger. Tension and conflict and character development take off right out the gate so that, when I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down until halfway through, and then only because I had to sleep. Bardugo makes you think you know where the plot is going, only to draw the curtain back to reveal the hidden mirrors. You just thought, she smirks at you. Her character, Kaz Brekker, not only stays a step ahead of his enemies (for the most part), but also ahead of the readers, making for delicious twists and surprises.

The Six of Crows Duology is technically a sequel to The Grisha Trilogy. A few characters from the trilogy are mentioned and some even make an appearance (squee-worthy for those of us who’ve read both), but readers need not have read about the Grisha to enjoy this story. Bardugo seamlessly weaves their backstories in so newcomers will not be left in the dark.

This story is masterfully woven into a fast-paced tale of anti-hero justice and vengeance, clever heists, cunning tricks, and intriguing characters, all set in the beautiful 1900s-esque merchant undercity of Ketterdam. I’m especially pleased that the narrative reaches a satisfying climax for all characters involved and it takes enough time with the wrap-up to answer all lingering questions. If you’ve read Six of Crows, you won’t be disappointed with this crowning sequel. If you haven’t and you’re not quite convinced, you can read my review of the prequel before you go pick it up.

No mourners, no funerals.

Goodreads rating: 4.63 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars

Book Review: Six of Crows

This story takes readers on an emotional roller coaster of bated breath, joyous highs, and gut twisting plunges. Quick, heart-pounding, witty, and never dull.

Six of Crows
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

(via Goodreads)

My Impressions:

About the Author:

Leigh Bardugo
#1 New York Times-bestselling author, Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo  is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Young Adult fantasy. In addition to The Six of Crows Duology, she has written The Grisha Trilogy–set in the same world of the Grisha as Six of Crows–along with a couple of kids books. According to her website, she has three more books in the works.

About the Book:

Six of Crows is about quick wit and devotion from a handful of people who must put their faith in a young man haunted by a tortured past. It blazes forward with the unrelenting energy of heist stories such as Ocean’s Eleven and Now You See Me, but is set in the early 1900s-esque fantasy country of Kerch. Here, profit is king and Kaz Brekker is a devoted follower. He and five other characters drive the story, facing increasingly dangerous situations and overcoming deadly odds in the pursuit of their collective and individual goals.

All of the characters are anti-heroes in their own ways–criminals, rejects, wasters, killers, and traitors, morally ambiguous to the last. But they are human; relatable, tragic, and beautiful. I love all of them, but my favorite is Kaz Brekker. He’s a Slytherclaw in personality (like me)–brilliant, ruthless, cunning, and one of the few main characters I’ve witnessed who has both a psychological and a physical handicap. The tale contains several other instances like this of breaking from your typical, cookie-cutter hero types. So if you, like me, are interested in fresh and creative characters, you should check this book out.

The Six of Crows Duology is technically a sequel to The Grisha Trilogy. A few characters from the trilogy are mentioned and some even make an appearance (squee-worthy for those of us who’ve read both), but readers need not have read about the Grisha to enjoy this story. Bardugo masterfully weaves their backstories in so newcomers will not be left in the dark.

This story takes readers on an emotional roller coaster of bated breath, joyous highs, and gut twisting plunges. Quick, heart-pounding, witty, and never dull.

Goodreads reviewers gives Six of Crows 4.45 stars, but I give it 5 stars. Highly recommended.